6 Places & Experiences we didn’t write about in 2016

Sometimes we don't write about all our experiences. This post catches up with six from 2016. (Sunset at a lagoon in the Pantanal/Brazil)

Sometimes we don’t write about all our experiences. This post catches up with six from 2016. (Sunset at a lagoon in the Pantanal/Brazil)

Those of you who follow us on Facebook will have noticed that there are a number of experiences and destinations we have never posted about on dare2go. We usually had our reasons to skip some subjects. With this post I will cover some of the post topics we haven’t written about in 2016.

The History and Traditions of the Gauchos

For a long time I had planned to write about Gauchos, as – to this day – they play a vital role in the culture of Argentina, Uruguay, and the south of Brazil. When you are in rural areas you can’t help seeing them almost daily. Gauchos stand out with their typical style of clothing: flared pants, wide brimmed hats or a beret, leather boots up to their knees, often a handkerchief around their neck, and a long-bladed knife sticking in the back of their belt.

A typical group of gauchos at the Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha, waiting to participate in the next event.

A typical group of gauchos at the Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha, waiting to participate in the next event.

In Uruguay we visited two Gaucho museums, one in Montevideo, another in Tacuarembo. Some of the Gaucho paraphernalia on display, like beautiful, richly decorated silver works, really fascinated us. We went to Tacuarembo to experience the annual Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha , Uruguay’s largest gathering of Gauchos. We were mesmerised by it, but also left with more questions .

Afterwards I thought that the Gaucho history and traditions would make for an interesting blog post. But the more I researched the more I realised how little I know and how many conflicting views on Gaucho culture you can find on the internet. I finally decided that, whatever I would post, would only repeat (maybe in a badly condensed form) what you can research yourself – so I gave up on the idea.

If you would like to learn more try these interesting links about Gaucho history:
Encyclopedia Britannica , sometimes free to read, sometimes not (shame on them!)
Another article which concentrates on the history of Argentina’s Gauchos

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.


Our Trip up Brazil’s Coast to Espirito Santo

The state of Espirito Santo was the furthest north we travelled along Brazil’s coast. Yasha still has it on her list of ‘blog posts to write’… But, since we only spent a little over one week, we didn’t really collect enough impressions and photos to justify a full post. We visited between two appointments I had with an eye surgeon in Campos dos Goytacazes.

The southern coast of Espirito Santo was, in a way, much the same as we had seen in the state of Rio de Janeiro – except for more coco palms, pineapple and sugar cane plantations. Later we passed through enormous and monotonous timber plantations – all there to feed a big smelly cellulose factory. Brazil is known to have cut down most of the Atlantic Forest to make way for farming and plantation forest; they even count these monoculture trees towards their carbon balance.

We passed so quickly through Vitória, the state capital, that we didn’t even take any decent photos. The two places we wanted to see were both further north. The Reserva Biológica de Sooretama protects one of the few remaining remnants of the Atlantic Forest. But, alas, as had happened to us before in Brazil, you’re not allowed to enter this protected area! All we got to see were some rather poor taxidermic examples of the endangered animal species found here.

The sand dunes of Itaúnas

The sand dunes of Itaúnas

Our final destination was Itaúnas in the far north. This is a place where large wandering sand dunes buried the old town and redirected the flow of the river. It seems the locals have learned a bit from the past and now try to manage the landscape in a more ecologically sound manner. We gained the impression that Itaúnas is a destination attracting an young, alternative crowd.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.


The North Pantanal in Brazil

Our visit to the Pantanal would have probably deserved at least a gallery post as we left with hundreds of outstanding photos. But we also left with rather mixed feelings so we didn’t know how to describe our experience. So, until now we only mentioned it in our World Heritage post from Brazil .

We arrived there towards the end of peak season, when the land is at its driest and all wildlife is gathering around the few remaining sources of water. This in turn attracts the biggest tourist crowds as it becomes easier to spot exotic wild animals.

And they were there – in droves, all fitted out in fashionable ‘safari gear’, carrying high-priced photo equipment (you could easily buy a middle class car for the value of their cameras). And all the hype and buzz is for one animal: the jaguar!

We on the other hand would have liked to have seen examples of other animals the Pantanal is famous for: tapirs, sloths, the giant otters, and marsh deer – just to name a few. Unfortunately our expensive boat trip, shared with a Brazilian couple, turned into an exclusively high-speed chase of the jaguar. We didn’t see any of the other animals we came for. Except one evening I spotted a pair of giant otters swimming playfully along the bank of the river we camped at.

A pair of blue hyacinth macaws in the North Pantanal. I took dozens of photos of these beautiful birds...

A pair of blue hyacinth macaws in the North Pantanal. I took dozens of photos of these beautiful birds…

We still saw a lot of wildlife, particularly birds, capibaras, and caymans. But we had seen all of these before in many other places . The only exception were the hyacinth macaws, which kept my attention for hours as it was their mating season. I still don’t know if the experience justified a 250 kilometre round trip across dozens of very dubious looking bridges, which made our hearts stop every time we crossed one.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.


The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia

This giant salt lake is on everybody’s ‘bucket list‘ for Bolivia. Which means you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands of web pages describing a visit to the Salar de Uyuni. Somehow I feel we don’t have to add another one. We mentioned it briefly in our post about ‘Crossing a Border without Border Crossing’ .

Most people visit the Salar with organised tours, starting in Uyuni and doing the ‘Laguna Circuit’ towards the south. At the time we were both suffering from effects of altitude, and Berta had suffered a lot on Bolivia’s rough roads. So we decided against the ‘Laguna Route’ which would have also taken us further south than we wanted to be. (The majority of travellers exit towards San Pedro de Atacama in Chile , where we’ve been twice already.)

Everybody needs some funny photos, playing with the distorted perspective of the endlessly flat salar – so here Yasha is holding up Berta.

Everybody needs some funny photos, playing with the distorted perspective of the endlessly flat salar – so here Yasha is holding up Berta.

Driving the Salar has been an interesting experience, one we wouldn’t have wanted to miss. But it’s also, in a way, an expensive experience if you drive it in your own vehicle. The salt really gets into every small crack of your vehicle; I had to wash a thick salt crust of our solar panels on the roof!

After some hundred kilometres of driving on the Salar it also starts to wear on you. The Salar is flat and, apart from the few islands, rather monotonous. The constant white glare is hard on your eyes, even with sunglasses. No wonder that recently there had been a head-on collision of two Jeeps…

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.


The ‘Rock-eating’ Lichens in High Altitude

There’s a particular kind of lichen which only seems to thrive in altitudes above 4,000 metres. We often drove along fields of bright green patches covering the Andean landscape. These appear like large, rounded blobs under which a rock is hidden.

Almost every larger rock on this hill is covered in green lichen (Chile).

Almost every larger rock on this hill is covered in green lichen (Chile).

After a while we were so curious about them that I got out to take a closer look. And this close-up inspection was absolutely fascinating. The lichen cover is made up thousands of small, nearly star-shaped, individual organisms which interlock.

On the surface you can see tiny, tiny flowers and an excretion, which looks and feels like amber pebbles. On some I also observed a run-off which looked as if it was a clear water-like resin.

The most fascinating discovery was on bare patches, where the lichen had obviously died back: the rock below was completely porous – as if eaten into by the lichen. In fact, it’s often so porous that other plants, like grasses, can take root in the damaged rock.

We first consciously noticed these lichens in Chile, across the border from the Salar de Uyuni. We have since found very similar lichens in Peru – the only difference seems to be that these are not always of the same juicy green, but a little paler in colour.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.


The Support from Strangers when Yasha’s Parents died

Our time in Brazil was overshadowed by the deaths of Yasha’s Mum and Dad – within 6 weeks of each other. This really affected our mood and energy to go out and see more. When it happened there was little opportunity for exchange and shared grief with her relatives in Australia, hence Yasha often felt at a loss. Luckily we received amazing support from a number of Brazilians, former strangers to us.

Yasha's parents, who died in June & July 2016, photographed at their 60th wedding anniversary in 2011.

Yasha’s parents, who died in June & July 2016, photographed at their 60th wedding anniversary in 2011.

Although we mentioned the hardship at the time, as a side remark, in some of our blog posts, Yasha only elaborated on her feelings in one of our newsletters. It was also the most appropriate place to express our gratitude to the people who gave much needed support at the time.

You see, some topics aren’t really suitable for this blog and a broad public audience. If you don’t want to miss out on our more intimate reflections you should subscribe to our Newsletter! (So far we have only managed to send one each 2-3 months – so we won’t flood your inbox.)

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From our travels through South America, some places and experiences don't require a dedicated blog post, but nevertheless are worth mentioning. Here are 6 we won't forget: the Gaucho culture of Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil; Espirito Santo and the Pantanal in Brazil; the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia; peculiar rock-eating lichen in the Andes; and finally the support we received from total strangers. This post contains 30 beautiful large photos!

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Juergen

webmaster, main photographer & driver, second cook and only husband at dare2go.com. Freelance web designer with nearly 20 years of experience at webbeetle.com.au

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2 Responses

  1. Donna Janke says:

    This look “behind the scenes” at what didn’t make it to a blog post was very interesting. It shows how much care and effort you put into what you do write about. I can relate to research making one aware of how little one knows and surfacing conflicting opinions and information. It becomes especially hard when it is on topic you are really interested in and would love to write about. I love the blue hyacinth macaws. My sympathies to Yasha.

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